Ombudsman Gwendolien Mossel in an interview with The Daily Herald published on Wednesday emphasised the importance of affordable housing. The often-talked-about relatively high cost of living is to a significant extent attributable to the lack of such.
She mentioned an increase in issues between landlords and tenants due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its socioeconomic effect. Equipping the Rent Committee with enough resources, regulations and policy to function properly and combat practices like shutting off utilities in the owner’s name as an eviction tool was again recommended after it had already been spelled out in a 2018 report.
The demand for low- and middle-income living accommodations is why St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) was established. Its director Hellen Salomons in the Christmas Eve edition of this newspaper expressed concern that the December 30 deadline for a US $45 million grant requested from the Dutch-sponsored Trust Fund would pass without the necessary decision-making by government.
However, the World Bank that manages this post-Hurricane Irma fund had given her hope means would still be available in 2021. They were to be used for repairing the existing 773 rental units and building 1,000 new homes.
There is quite some money left of the amount earmarked by the Netherlands for what –after all – was dubbed a “recovery and resilience” fund. Affordable, decent and secure housing would certainly seem to fit into that category, perhaps now more than ever.